"Oh my friends, my friends forgive me You might be
That I live and you are gone.
There's a grief that can't be spoken.
There's a pain goes on and on..."
the Last Of Your Kind
or someone else made a Heroic Sacrifice
for you, but whatever the reason, you're going to feel a massive sense of guilt
. An easy way to generate Angst
. Expect this to occur when the Mary Sue
dies or a husband survives the death of his family
. Practically a guarantee in cases of Death by Childbirth
, or when one is a Sole Survivor
Can also lead to the victim becoming a Death Seeker
or Failure Knight
. May cause Bad Dreams
, Drowning My Sorrows
, and various other ways to cope, while trusted friends and/or professionals plead with him to realize that he has nothing to beat himself up about. Contrast You Should Have Died Instead
, where one survivor tries to evoke Survivor Guilt
Truth in Television
: Survivor's Guilt is a common symptom of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, especially among suicide witnesses.
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Anime and Manga
- anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day: All of the main cast are lamenting and blaming themselves to some extent over the death of their friend Menma.
- Shinji from Neon Genesis Evangelion suffers from this after killing Kaworu, which helps trigger the Mind Screw of the Gainax Ending.
- Also a huge element in the characters of Misato and Kaji, who lived through a near apocalypse at a young age, the former owing said survival to a Heroic Sacrifice by her estranged father...
- Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: Poor Viral.
Viral: Don't you have the slightest idea? The depths of MY SHAME!? The humiliation of always being the sole survivor!? How much I had begged to take part in this battle!? JUST SO I COULD BE ABLE TO FACE YOU!?
- Cosmo in Sonic X falls into this category. Her planet itself had been abandoned centuries earlier and Cosmo, a young plant based lifeform, grew up on board a Space Station which was then destroyed by the Metarex leaving her the only survivor of her clan - and continually haunted by the fact. Though the Metarex themselves later turn out to be members of the seedrian species too - the ones who stayed behind on their planet after the others abandoned it, where they became the space-faring monstrosities the Metarex.
- Sara Werec of Soukou no Strain is spurred on initially by her survivor's guilt, her Big Brother Worship, and the question of "why?" that arose from both of the above. When Lottie figures out that the Omnicidal Maniac who killed her brother has let Sara live three times, and realizes Sara's true identity, she strikes out at Sara by giving her Carris' present to her, the last thing she saw him with before he was killed, to induce more survivor's guilt in her.
- In Digimon Adventure, various members of the cast gets this after the death of various allies/bystanders. Digimon Tamers provides a more extreme example with Jeri.
- Suzaku from Code Geass; his guilt comes from the fact that he killed his own father in a fit of despair (his old man was willing to sacrifice the whole of Japan rather than allow it to be under Britannia's control) and was never punished for it. Naturally, this lead to his becoming The Atoner and a Death Seeker.
- From 7 Seeds we have the entire Team Summer A, for how the Final Test went down. The most noticeable examples being Ango, blaming himself for letting Shigeru die, when he was injured and made a mistake when he was two-man climbing the cave's walls. Koruri who thinks she could've saved Mayu, had she arrived at her death site a bit earlier. And Ayu, who feels it's her fault that her bullies died after ingesting poison from branches they used to make chopsticks with but didn't say anything.
- There is also Aramaki, the last survivor of Team Winter. Aramaki thinks he should've died than they, since he sees himself as useless and woefully unprepared for everything in the world they are in.
- Negi of Mahou Sensei Negima! seems to have some issues stemming from the fact that he, his friend Anya and his cousin Nekane were the only survivors of their Doomed Hometown, while everyone else was Taken for Granite. He's only recently starting to get over the fact that it wasn't his fault.
- And then it's revealed that the attack on the village was apparently done by a group of evil senators specifically to kill Negi. So, in a roundabout way, it was his fault. He wasn't aware of it, but it didn't stop him from angsting any.
- After the Kakyuu Princess dies in Sailor Stars, the Starlights, the last survivors of their planet, convene to strike back against Galaxia for no other reason than vengeance, stating that without her, they have no reason to live. Their attack fails and they get battered for their troubles, but not killed, leaving them to lament at how they've survived once more.
- In the manga, it is reversed: the Starlights die, and then Kakyuu Princess levels up into Sailor Kakyuu to strike back against her killers. However, she still dies.
- Gintoki from Gintama is more or less a goofy, laid-back Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass, but it's also implied (often in the anime opening and closing credits) that he has some of this.
- Kasumi from King of Thorn has a massive case of this, since she was selected to be saved from a deadly disease by being put into cold sleep while her twin sister Shizuku was not. She even tries to commit suicide so that Shizuku can take her place.
- Kambei from Samurai 7, who hates the fact that as a leader, he alone manages to survive battles due to his sheer Badass nature even as the rest of his men usually die.
- Fai from Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle has it bad! He was the last survivor of not one but two destroyed worlds, to say nothing of his twin brother sacrificing his life so that Fai could be free of the magical prison they were both trapped in. Neither the first destroyed world nor the death of his brother was actually his fault, but everybody blamed it on him anyway. By the time the second world rolled around he was perfectly capable of blaming himself without anybody else's help.
- The writer of Grave of the Fireflies must've felt this way because, in Real Life, Setsuko was the only one who died. In the book he wrote and the film, Seita dies as well; showing the writers remorse that he hadn't died along with his little sister...
- In CLANNAD, Tomoya was so stricken with guilt and grief at Nagisa's dying while giving birth to their daughter, he a) stayed distant from his daughter while she grew up because of the painful memories, and b) became certain that everything would have been so much better if he and Nagisa had never met in the first place (since she would still be alive (maybe) and he wouldn't have to deal with the painful grief). He comes to realize he was very wrong on both counts, and makes amends with his daughter and makes peace with his memories of his wife. And then, in the anime series version, their daughter dies, and Tomoya drops dead from guilt. But they all get better.
- Kotomi's situation also fits this trope and narrowly skirts the edges of Deus Angst Machina; her parents died in a plane crash when she was very young, right after she had a fit and told them (untruthfully) that she hated them. And then she burned up an extremely important document, the only remaining copy of the last thing her parents wrote, in an attempt to bring them back. She becomes obsessed with her parents' death, and tries for years to reproduce the document, but never manages to; and she has trouble making friends because she's secretly terrified that she might make some other mistake and cause their deaths, too. She improves, though, when she learns that the thing she incinerated was a teddy bear catalog, and that her parents managed to mail her a teddy bear from the crashed airplane, because it was the only thing she'd ever asked them for.
- A large portion of the cast of characters in Fullmetal Alchemist fit this trope.
- Scar, whose brother died in his place.
- Ed, who got away with the loss of just an arm and a leg while Al lost his whole body.
- ANY person who was involved in the Ishvalan war and isn't one of the bad guys. Especially Roy, Riza, Alex, and Marcoh.
- Hohenheim, who is the only survivor of a race of people, whose genocide was partially his responsibility.
- Izumi (more so in the 2003 anime version), in regards to her dead child, who she thinks died twice because of her actions.
- Gohan and Krillin both suffer this in Dragon Ball Z after all their comrades are killed in the battle with the Saiyans.
- Terry Sanders Jr. in Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team has it particularly bad: He earned the nickname "Shinigami" ("The Team-Killer" in the English dub, Bowdlerised to "The Reaper" for the daytime broadcast) because every team he was a part of would get wiped out save for him on their third mission together.
- In Yu-Gi-Oh!, season 4, BIG SPOILER Yami after the duel with Raphael-you know the one.
- Ranma ½: One of the reasons why Ranma angsts about Akane dying. She dies twice, right after saving Ranma's life each time.
Ranma: It would have been better if it were me. You should have let me die, but you're always butting in... Why did you have to get involved? Damn, Akane. You fool. Why didn't you let me go?
- Cloud in Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. His depression and antisocial tendencies returning is strongly implied to be due not to Aerith or Zack's deaths, but him surviving.
- Yuya, a Wholesome Crossdresser in the hentai manga Secret Plot Deep, suffers from this along with being The Unfavorite, as his twin sister had died in a car crash and his parents went into deep depression as a result. Then one day, as his back-story reveals, his mother mistook him for his sister when he was coming out of the shower (his having long hair didn't help), and when he came home from school the next day, all his stuff was thrown out and his sister's stuff put back in place instead; he decided to go along with the charade in order to keep his parents happy. When he reveals this to his love interest, he's clearly unhappy with the situation, declaring that it should have been him that died instead of his sister. Said love interest disagrees.
- Angel Beats! has Yuri, who had to deal with a group of robbers who broke into her house and told her to bring valuables to them quickly, or one of her three siblings would be killed every ten minutes. It took thirty minutes for the cops to come.
- In the anime, Tokyo Majin has Aoi Misato, who feels bad about being unable to save a friend who got locked in a building that was on fire. It's worth noting that she had also been injured at the time, and has burn scars on her back as a result.
- In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Madoka is so horrified about Mami's death, she goes to her house and says "I'm sorry for being so weak." Taken Up to Eleven with Homura. She saw her best friend die to protect her, and prayed that she was the one to die instead of her. She went back in time and saw it over and over again, so it's no doubt she felt this again at some point.
- In Naruto, Sasuke has a bad case of this. In his rant to the resurrected Itachi, he reveals that he wishes he had died with the rest of his family.
- Kakashi is another example, being the only survivor of Team Minato, but mainly over the death of his best friend, Obito, whome he "talks to" when he visits the Memorial Stone Though in chapter 599 we find out that Obito didn't die and is in fact, Tobi. and then it gets worse The whole reason Obito did all this was because Kakashi failed to protect Rin, possible making his guilt even WORSE.
- Then there's the fact that he's a witness to two suicides.
- In Blue Exorcist it has been revealed that Rin actually has this. Though he tends to avoid it...or not.
- Though everyone from The Voynich Hotel's Sleuth Brigade was affected by Peace's death, Vixen and Leader were hit hardest. The former because she was her rival in Leader's affections, the latter because he stepped on the landmine that Peace threw him out of the way from.
- One of the core elements of Attack on Titan, with characters struggling to cope with the massive losses that result from being members of a Red Shirt Army. There isn't a single character that hasn't lost a comrade, friend, or loved one at some point in the story, and humanity in general struggles with knowing they survived at the cost of thousands of refugees being sent off to die by the government.
- Armin suffered this as he watched Eren being eaten before his very eyes after saving him. He simply shut down and it took a while before he snapped out of it.
- Rurouni Kenshin - as a young child, Kenshin witnessed three older girls use themselves as shields for him in a bandit attack, and this left such a huge scar in his psyche that it goes onto influence his life decisions from that point on.
- The titular character in Porco Rosso may have changed in to a pig due to his guilt of being the only survivor of his squadron.
- Due to living a Crapsack World, this is common in Seraph of the End. Notable examples include Yuu, who was the Sole Survivor when everyone at his orphanage was massacred and admits that sometimes he thinks he should've died with the rest; Yoichi, whose older sister died defending him from vampires and who now lives frustrated with his own weakness; and Mitsuba, whose squad leader took a fatal hit for her, caused by her own actions, and is thus harsh on anyone who reminds her of her past self.
- It's implied in Birdy the Mighty: Decode that this is the real reason behind Shyamalan's obsession with his supposed "chosen" status.
- No one dies in Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de aru but Karin has a case of this after the other girls use their Mankai and end up each having a physical issue as a consequence (muteness, deafness in one ear, no taste, blindness in one eye). Karin was the only one who was fine as she couldn't unlock her Mankai.
- In System Restore, Togami feels personally responsible for what happened at his party, and confides in Hinata that he feels it was his failings as a leader that led to the deaths of Komaeda and Hanamura. He even states that he feels he should have died instead due to his failure.
- In the Emergency! fic "Lost and Found'',Roy is almost kidnapped by a serial killer and torturer, but John pushes to go instead and spare Roy. Roy believes John has to be dead until he is found alive, but even after, Roy wrestles with a non-death related type of this; massive guilt because he knows John suffered 18 months of hell that he should have went through, if he could even have done what John felt he had to just to survive. And John is told that Roy died from being shot, and wrestles with this type of guilt until he finds out the jerk lied to him to torment him more.
- As in the example above, Cosmo from Sonic X: Dark Chaos has this in spades - and combined with watching her family die gruesomely and being forced to kill the love of her life, this trope and her PTSD completely shatters her.
- The premise of Ordinary People.
- Zac Hobson has a case of this in The Quiet Earth after discovering that he might just be the last human alive—compounded by the fact that he was part of the research team that caused the mass extinction in the first place- and spends several weeks going insane from loneliness and guilt. He gets better after encountering two other survivors.
- In Stand by Me, Gordie has a bit of a case of survivor's guilt over the death of his older brother, not because he was involved in it in any way so much as because he is The Unfavorite and thinks his parents would prefer it if he'd been the one who died instead of his brother.
- Joe Enders, Nicolas Cage's character in Windtalkers, had his entire unit killed when he decided to follow orders and told them to hold their position rather than retreating. He was the only one who survived and he was awarded a medal and promoted for his actions. To make the situation even more messed up, his new job might require him to kill the code talker he is charged with protecting rather than let him fall into enemy hands. Joe is a Death Seeker and one step away from being suicidal.
- In Repo! The Genetic Opera, Nathan Wallace wishes that he had died instead of his wife, Marni. As mentioned in the song "I Didn't Know I'd Love You So Much":
"Sometimes I'd stay up all night/ Wishing to God that I was the one who died"
- Det. Del Spooner of I Robot has this as a reason for hating robots. During a car accident where he and a girl were trapped in cars sinking into the lake, a robot saved him but not the girl. The robot's claims that Spooner had a better chance of survival than the girl (whose odds were statistically non-existent) and since the robots brain is a difference engine, it logically went after the one with a better chance of survival, a reasoning that Del hates since he believes that a true human would gladly sacrifice their life to save the girl no matter how futile.
- To be noted is a scene where he wakes up and points a gun with his head... with his finger on the trigger.
- A deleted scene from Unbreakable has Bruce Willis' character having a Shower of Angst while hearing reports of the train crash, of which, he was the lone survivor.
- A scene that was never filmed from Superman Returns was to have given this to Superman... as he gazed on Ground Zero in New York City. The writers' idea was that his thought process would essentially be If I had been here, maybe this wouldn't have happened.
- In Pitch Black Riddick is briefly struck with this near the end after Fry is killed when she goes back to save him, if his screaming protests of "Not for me! Not for ME!" are any indication.
- In I Miss You I Miss You there is a heartbreaking scene where Tina addresses this. She was running just one step ahead of her twin sister when her sister was hit by a car and killed. Afterward she has nightmares where her sister wants them to trade places, and sometimes hears her sister's voice in her head.
Cilla's voice: I don't want to die, Tina. I want to live.
Tina: (sobbing) I want to live too, Cilla. I want to live. Let me be. Let me be. I want to live, Cilla! If I had only watched where I was going. If only I had seen the car.
- The Guardian has Ben Randall, who is feeling this after being the only survivor of a botched rescue.
- The film adaptation of Schindlers List has shades of this. After his Heel-Face Turn, Schindler financially ruins himself bribing Nazi officials in an effort to save Jews from the Holocaust. After he escapes, he forlornly notices that hawking his getaway car could've saved more lives, too, and the Nazi party pin he wore could've bribed someone for just one life.
- Discussed in Dr. Strangelove regarding an After the End nuclear scenario. President Muffley raises the question paraphrasing Khrushchev; "Won't the living envy the dead?" but Strangelove easily dismisses the concept, pointing out that joie de vivre will prevail.
- In Pacific Rim, it's implied that Chuck has this where his father chose to save him over his mother when a Kaiju attacked Sydney, which he resents Herc for.
- Interestingly, Godzilla (1954) has a case of this for the the titular monster; a survivor of the atomic bomb. Whilst normal guilt is normally only destructive to onesself, Godzilla has a rather more drastically external case of it.
- In The Book Of Life, after it looks like Maria was killed, Manolo can't even life his head up.
- In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Tonks starts becoming Wangsty, and this is attributed to survivor guilt after the events of the previous book where her mother's cousin Sirius Black dies. It's also because she's unhappy that she and Lupin can't be a couple.
- Harry goes through this here and there throughout the series; in Goblet of Fire he said, "I told Cedric to take the Cup with me." And the enormous guilt he feels in Deathly Hallows over the people who died protecting him.
- Also in Deathly Hallows, we find out that Dumbledore is a textbook case.
- This trope is the reason Sirius Black blamed himself for the deaths of James and Lily Potter and the muggles killed by Peter Pettigrew.
- I Am Legend.
- An awful lot of people from the Star Wars Expanded Universe, actually. (Granted, recently the novels tend to kill off everything from main characters to Mauve Shirts with impunity...)
- Specific examples from the X-Wing Series. Wedge Antilles has largely, though not entirely, handled this, but it pops up sometimes while he bears The Chains of Commanding and considers the friends he's sent to their deaths. Kell Tainer has incredible angst over failing to save a wingmate and being honored for the attempt. Myn Donos. And Tyria Sarkin is the last of her branch of the Antarian Rangers, sort of semi-Jedi, and she always feels that she's not nearly good enough to live up to them.
- In Gav Thorpe's Warhammer 40,000 novel 13th Legion, Kage throws away his pardon by starting a brawl at the end. In the subsequent novels, Schaeffer, more than once, points out that this was what motivated him, as he was the last of the four thousand the legion started out with.
- In Graham McNeill's Warhammer 40,000 Ultramarines novel The Warriors of Ultramar, Sister Joaniel's Back Story included being the sole survivor of a direct hit on a field hospital.
- Dan Abnett's Warhammer 40,000 Gaunt's Ghosts series is based in this trope. The Tanith Ghosts are the only survivors of their planet's destruction and it motivates and haunts them. The Verghastite Ghosts chose to join the regiment after their hive city was declared a Necropolis and abandoned in the wake of a Chaos attack that many of them fought in as civilian militia.
- This is the plot of the Lurlene McDaniel book The Girl Death Left Behind, as the main character's family dies in a car wreck (on the 4th of July, no less) and she struggles with the aftermath.
- Septimus in Mrs. Dalloway watched his friend die in World War I and suffers from hallucinations.
- In the Last Herald Mage series, Vanyel has a major case of this over the death of his True Love: not only is he heartbroken, he thinks he can never measure up to Tylendel, either as a new mage or in his aunt's affections (Tylendel was a sort of surrogate son for his aunt). He turns out to be quite wrong on both counts.
- Honor Harrington:
- The title character, frequently. She has a habit of going up against impossible odds, prepared to make a Heroic Sacrifice... and surviving. But that doesn't mean that everyone else who went into battle with her will survive, and she beats herself up over it. As the series goes on, she becomes better at dealing with it. It helps that these situations are often ones in which everyone should have died - regardless of how few survive, they wouldn't have without her.
- Berry Zilwicki is also said to be dealing with this after surviving an assassination attempt aimed at killing her in At All Costs.
- Honor's best friend, Michelle Henke, battles a case of this after surviving the Battle of Solon when most of her people died. This later bonds her to her new flag lieutenant, Gervais "Gwen" Archer; he was also a Solon survivor, albeit from a different ship.
- Taran experiences this in Taran Wanderer, the fourth book of the Prydain Chronicles, when he's unable to save the life of the shepherd Craddoc.
- Averted with Baron Harkonnen in Dune, where Leto tries to poison Harkonnen with a gas in a fake tooth and ends up taking out everyone in the room except for Harkonnen (he managed to evade it at the last second), and his immediate reaction is joy that he survived, and everyone else is dead.
- In Bluebeard by Kurt Vonnegut, this is explicitly brought up as afflicting Rabo Karabekian's Armenian father, but not his (equally Armenian) mother.
- Present in full force in Soldiers Live, the last of the Black Company books, largely due to the Kill 'em All mentality.
- The title is actually a reference to the concept. "Soldiers Live" is short for "soldiers live, and wonder why." In context, this is the narrator musing over why men younger than himself are cut down while he survives long enough for his age to be bothersome.
- In Vilhelm Moberg's The Emigrants Robert feels this way after the death of Arvid on the California trail.
- Word of God is that the main theme of Mystic River is survivor's guilt, mainly from Sean and Jimmy, who avoided being abducted and abused by two pedophiles when they were kids while their friend Dave was victimized, and from Sean because he managed to escape the neighborhood and make a good life for himself as a cop.
- One of the many things Tina has to deal with after her twin sister Cilla's death in "I Miss You I Miss You". Tina was running just one step ahead of Cilla when she got hit by a car and killed, and it could just as easily have been Tina who died.
- The Hunger Games: Katniss Everdeen has this in spades.
- Peeta on the other hand seems to have shockingly little of this. However this could be because the story is told through Katniss' eyes and we never know exactly what Peeta is feeling.
- Trader belief in The Circle of Magic holds that the sole survivor of a disaster is the source of the bad luck that caused the disaster. Consequently, they are ritually Unpersoned and exiled by the Trader people. This happens to Daja at the beginning of the series, after she's the sole survivor of a shipwreck.
- Sandry has a good bit of survivor's guilt over the smallpox plague that left her orphaned, and after the second book Tris has to deal with having personally destroyed an attacking pirate fleet, and watched hundreds of innocent galley slaves drown in their shackles as the ships sank. In the Circle Opens arc, Daja gets hit with it again after learning that the firefighter she'd given handmade magical safety equipment to was the insane arsonist who'd been setting the fires, and her gear just enabled him to firebomb a hospital. Briar, of all people, seems to have escaped this... until the Circle Reforged arc, which reveals that his travels in the East ended up in a war zone. Good grief.
- Dag in The Sharing Knife suffers from this after losing his first wife and most of his comrades in a gory battle.
- In Of Fear and Faith, August deals with this after the events of Fear the Reaper, as he feels responsible for the high death toll of that battle since he was in charge of the battle plan.
- In the Mediochre Q Seth Series, Mediochre seems to have this over Pigeon, his WWI comrade. He seems to have defaced his own Victoria Cross medal at some point after Pigeon's death with the words "For You But Not For Me" (a macabre reference to The Bells of Hell).
- In More Than This, Seth feels responsible for his brother Owen's kidnapping, especially after he finds out Owen was killed by the kidnapper.
- In San Diego 2014, Lorelei Tutt has a bad case of this, even after thirty years. She's the only known survivor of the zombie outbreak at ComicCon 2014, because her case of adolescent attitude prompted her father to send her out of the convention center to their hotel room. She got out of the convention center minutes before infected arrived.
- Discussed in Islands of Rage and Hope, with a US Marine sergeant having a serious case of it after surviving the zombie outbreak at Guantanamo Bay because her superiors ordered her to retreat instead of trying to save them from a horde of Technically Living Zombies in the prologue, and is contemplating whether to shoot herself in the head or strangle herself and save the bullet for someone else.
Live Action TV
- In Doctor Who, The Doctor gets darker due to his entire race (apart from The Master, but he didn't know about him at the time) being killed off.
- Guilt compounded by the apparent fact that he caused whatever destroyed the other Time Lords (along with the Daleks) in the first place, as indicated in the episode "Dalek":
Doctor: Your race is dead! You all burned, all of you! Ten million ships on fire—the entire Dalek race, wiped out in one second!
Dalek: You lie!
Doctor: I watched it happen. I made it happen!
- He didn't simply cause it. In The End of Time, it becomes clear that he killed the Time Lords on purpose, to prevent them from destroying reality. In a case of Fridge Brilliance, this is obvious in retrospect: after the Doctor ended the Time War, legions of Daleks survived, but only one other Time Lord.
- This trope is arguably the defining personality trait for the Ninth and Tenth Doctors, although Ten is a lot better at hiding it.
- In The Waters of Mars, the Tenth Doctor finally snaps. As he walks away from the Mars colony as it's being destroyed, knowing that it, being a fixed point in time, cannot be saved, he hears the screams of the perishing people in his headset. Eventually it gets too much, and the Doctor, utterly terrified of becoming the single survivor once again, turns back and, in a frenzy, tries to take control of the laws of time. Things go From Bad to Worse, and his actions ultimately end up having no effect anyway.
- The Eleventh Doctor also experiences it from time to time. Unless Gallifrey is restored at some point, it's likely that all Post-Time War Doctors will experience it once in awhile.
- Surprisingly well-done in Supernatural. Dean's been feeling this since Faith but it was ramped to 1000 when his father died. Season Two bends and damages him so much that, by the time All Hell Breaks Loose rolls around, he's been reduced to a broken, martyred little boy who has a pathological need to keep Sam (who, contrary to his and his Dad's belief, is actually a big boy now who might have been at peace) alive.
- Also, Sam for Jess in Season One and John for Mary his entire life. While Dean's situation is Survivor Guilt taken to the most extreme level, their guilt was portrayed as no less tragic.
- Star Trek:
- In the episode "The Conscience of the King," Kirk is revealed to have this over having been spared during a eugenicist massacre as a teenager.
- Commodore Decker from "The Doomsday Machine" goes into a Heroic BSOD after losing his entire crew to the titular Planet Eater.
- Although both Harry and Chakotay survive the destruction of the Voyager in Star Trek: Voyager (at least in an alternate timeline), only Harry really feels this. Or rather, he represents the external guilt, and Chakotay represents the internal guilt.
- Chakotay and Torres also experience this to varying degrees when they learn that all the Maquis in the Alpha Quadrant have been wiped out.
- Family Ties:
- That episode about Alex's friend who died when Alex hadn't gone with him.
- A similar episode about the suicide of one of Mallory's friends. In one scene, she berates herself for not realizing how depressed the girl was.
- Tyzonn in Power Rangers Operation Overdrive takes the "vengeance" route after his rescue squad, including his fiancée, gets murdered in action. Also "Doggie" Cruger of Power Rangers S.P.D., who has vowed never to fight again after losing his people and his wife in a genocidal war. (Both women turn up OK at the end.)
- In House at the end of season four, there is a sense of this after House survives a bus crash.
- In Caprica, Lacy experiences a great deal of guilt and regret over the fact that she was almost on the train that exploded in the first half hour of the pilot, killing her best friend Zoe Graystone (along with two other important characters).
- Shows up a lot in the Babylon 5 universe; including Crusade, sufferers include Sinclair, Sheridan, Galen and Gideon.
- Grey's Anatomy:
- Owen's unit was wiped out in Iraq, with him as the lone survivor. This gives him PTSD in the form of vivid nightmares.
- Amanda, the girl that George pulled out from in front of a Bus. She survives with minor injuries, while George is killed. For a month or so afterwards, Amanda spent every day sitting in front of the hospital, uncertain of how to carry on with her life.
- Teen Wolf:
- Derek obviously blames himself for his family's death, as Kate Argent seduced him to get to his family.
- In his hallucination, Stiles reveals that he feels guilty for his mother's death and believes that his father blames him.
- Elena, Bonnie, Matt and Tyler suffer from this on The Vampire Diaries.
- In The Twilight Zone TOS episode "King Nine Will Not Return", James Embry feels guilty about not being with his crew mates when their bomber was lost in action during World War 2. He wasn't on the mission because he was seriously ill.
- "Serenity," the pilot episode of Firefly shows Captain Malcolm Reynolds as a man of faith, smiling in the face of death in the Battle of Serenity Valley, cheerfully telling a subordinate that God will save them because they're too pretty to die. Moments later, this trope hits him hard, and he never fully recovers.
- NCIS carries the heavy implication that Gibbs suffered from this from his wife and daughter being killed by a Mexican drug dealer (whom he got revenge by killing him in what was heavily implied to be under a felony). The episode "Life before his eyes" alleviates the guilt somewhat when his wife (or rather, a figment of her while he was in Limbo) reveals what would have happened had they survived.note Mike Franks also reveals that, had Gibbs not killed the aforementioned Mexican drug dealer, he would have been far worse off (he would have been a drunk recluse who coldly drives away even his friends from helping him) after Riley McCallister points out his earlier felony sending him into a Heroic BSOD in the same episode.
- Gibbs also suffers from this when Kate was killed by Ari, who was after him. His hallucination of her literally yells at him, "Why did I die instead of you!?"
- Andrew felt this way in the Buffy finale and actually asked "why didn't I die?" Part of him was afraid to die while part of him wanted to be killed as punishment for aiding The First and killing Jonathan.
- In the Mash, episode, "Trick or Treatment," Hawkeye has a patient who is starving himself because his buddies in a foxhole were killed during an artillery burst while eating. The patient survived by pure chance because he ate quickly and went back to the chow line for seconds and now cannot even look at food because of his guilt. Hawkeye sets up an appointment with his psychiatrist friend, Dr. Sidney Freedman, for him to help.
- And Hawkeye infamously went through a Heroic BSOD because a mother on a bus full of refugees suffocated her own infant rather than risk the child's crying alerting the enemy of their presence
- Josh Lyman on The West Wing. When he was a kid he survived a house fire that killed his older sister and he still sees a therapist about it some thirty years later.
- The very title of the Law & Order: UK episode that dealt with Matt Devlin's death. The opening sequence showed his partner Ronnie Brooks speaking to his AA group, clearly tormenting himself, feeling that if he had just gotten to him sooner, he could have prevented him from being shot, perhaps even taken the bullet for him (The sad irony is Matt died doing exactly this for his friend/colleague Alesha Phillips and the young witness in their case). Later, while talking with Alesha, he laments that unlike him, Matt never got a chance to get married and have children. Later still, while talking with his killer—who in another sad irony is himself displaying this trope, as he was acting out of misplaced vengeance over the death of his brother—he correctly deduces that young man loved his brother so much that even now he would take his place in order to bring him back—mirroring his feelings about Matt..
- Finch has this in Person of Interest, after building a gigantic surveillance system for the government to spot terrorist activity, he chooses to ignore the so-called 'Irrelivent' list of people his machine spots are about to be involved in non-terrorist violent activities (mainly murder). However, after his best friend is killed in a ferry bombing which kills several others and perminantly cripples Finch and he discovers that if he had listened to the irrelivent list he could have prevented it he sets out to stop the irrelevents getting hurt (with some help with Mr. Reese)
- In Primeval, this seems to be the source of Becker's Heroic BSOD in the beginning of season four. He's the only member of the field team left after Abby, Connor, and Danny are lost in the past (and presumed dead) and Sarah dies while on a mission with him to get them back. He doesn't really take it all well.
- Daniel Jackson of Stargate SG-1 has apparently been a victim of lifelong survivor's guilt from watching his parents' die in an accident when round six, thinking he could have done something to save them if given another chance.
- Stargate Atlantis: McKay develops a bad case of this when Griffin chooses to drown so McKay can have a chance at survival in "Grace Under Pressure." Rodney later feels extremely guilty because he'd been pretty mean to Griffin and there was no reason Griffin should have sacrificed himself.
- Call the Midwife: Julia Masterson in Series 2, Episode 6, the only one of her father's seven children not to die of TB (which took her mother as well). She explicitly tells her dad, "I'm sorry I'm the one who didn't die."
- Parodied in How I Met Your Mother. When Robin's boyfriend, Kevin (a psychiatrist) can't take the dysfunction of the True Companions anymore, he rattles off a bunch of psychological afflictions they demonstrate. Among them? Survivor Guilt... and the flashback showing it was Lily admitting that she watched Survivor without her husband.
- In Casualty, Doctor Martin Ashford appear to be heading down this route after the death of Paramedic Jeff Collier, who was blown up along with the car that Ash had been trapped in until just moments before. Jeff had been sitting inside the wreckage with him, keeping him from bleeding to death until his leg could be unimpaled, and didn't have time to get out before the fuel tank unexpectedly went boom.
- In Ciel The Last Autumn Story, January Lightsphere has a severe case of this over Lilith, as they suffered an attack of conscience over plotting to get him killed in a housefire, and died saving him after he'd already consigned himself to his fate.
- Anyone who wins a Survival of the Fittest game, for obvious reasons.
- Tasakeru: In the first month of his service as a samurai, Zero's squad of rookies was ambushed by a fanatical Death God cult. Seventeen died and more were injured, but Zero survived without a scratch. This resulted in his fleeing to Tasakeru and becoming a Ronin.
- In Worm, Chapter 19.7 reveals that this is what caused Tattletale's trigger event.
- Gunrunner was a Transformers Autobot commander. His entire squadron was slaughtered, except for him, due to his pretender shell. Worse, he promised them all they would get out alive.
- Depth Charge from Beast Wars was the only survivor of a Maximal colony destroyed by Ax-Crazy Predacon, Rampage. Rampage slaughtered everyone else and even ate some of them. As a result he made it his personal mission to hunt Rampage down and kill him.
- Nightscream from Beast Machines displays signs of this, particularly in the episode "Survivor." Within the episode, Nightscream and Optimus discover an underground, organic cave within Cybertron that houses numerous fossilized animals. Optimus is overjoyed, as it implies that Cybertron was once an organic world. Nightscream, on the other hand, becomes enraged/heartbroken, commenting that there were enough fossils for the entire Maximal population to scan, which would have saved them from Megatron's takeover (Megatron's scanners cannot detect Cybertronians with beast modes).
- G1 Bluestreak is described as the only survivor of his city, and presumably developed his nervous habit of constant chatterboxing to fill the silence.
- On Avatar: The Last Airbender, Aang goes through this phase in the episode "The Storm".
"The Fire Nation attacked our temple. My people needed me, and I wasn't there to help."
- The Justice League Unlimited episode "Hereafter" features an interesting version. Superman is flung far into the future, where the Earth is a wasteland under a red sun. The sole surviving human is the immortal Vandal Savage, who reveals that he ended up destroying humanity in one of his plans for world domination. Guilty for what he did, he assists Supes in returning to his own time and stopping him.
- From the same episode, back in the present day, the League and Toyman think that Superman is dead. Superman got hit by shoving Batman and Wonder Woman out of the way of Toyman's ray. Wonder Woman gets homicidal over survivor's guilt, and Toyman only survives thanks to The Flash.
- Demona from Gargoyles is the poster girl for this trope. Surviving the near extermination of her kind, compounded by her being immortal so she can't even join her dead kin unless she lets Macbeth kill her, has left her with the need to use humanity as a scapegoat because facing that sorrow and guilt scares her.
- Cleveland from The Cleveland Show. When his ex-wife Loretta dies, it forms a rift between him and his wife because of how broken up he is over it. Eventually he figures it must be survivor's guilt, because he'd repeatedly survived what killed her: Peter destroying his house, which caused his bathtub to slide off the second floor and shatter. (He survived this 4 times in Family Guy and 3 times in his own show, but the first time it happened to her, she broke her neck).
- Sym-Bionic Titan: Lance experiences this after Octus is killed protecting him from an electrical Mutraddi. He and Ilana spend the next two episodes trying to revive him.
- A well known characteristic of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, as noted above.
- Anne Frank often wrote about having nightmares of her friends imprisoned in concentration camps while she felt safely hidden. Now consider that Frank's family did end up in those camps eventually. Now go a step further, and remember that her father survived, but she did not. Nor did anyone else that was in hiding with her. Nor any of their friends or family who didn't escape before the German occupation.
- A lot of war veterans experience this.
- Spike Milligan, creator of The Goon Show and a man described as 'the Godfather of British comedy fought in World War II with several of his co-stars. Lets just say that, from reading his war diaries, there was a very good reason his comedy shows were filled with colossal explosions which never hurt anyone in any lasting way....
- Family and loved ones of those who commit suicide.
- And people who attempt suicide and survive may get a VERY twisted form of this, because either they couldn't even manage to DIE properly, they feel like they've been cheated out of relief, or they feel they "chickened out" and have now burdened their loved ones with financial and emotional stress; it is the exact thing they wanted to avoid.
- School bullying. While some 80% of the bullies end up later in prison and their victims all too often in suicide, it leaves nobody unscratched. Those pupils lucky enough to be bystanders may develop a severe case of Survivor Guilt.
- Clint Hill, the Secret Service agent assigned to protect Jackie Kennedy, suffered this after the JFK assassination. He revealed in an interview how much he regretted not moving a second faster and taking the third (and fatal) bullet himself.
- Actor Telly Savalas, before his rise to fame, worked as a lifeguard, and never forgave himself for the drowning death of a man on his watch.
- The Arlington National Cemetery was created in the aftermath of the American Civil War, intentionally invoking this trope: it was built in the backyard of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
- Many of the survivors of the Titanic disaster would get this (in large part due to listening to the victims freeze to death). But in particular, Bruce Ismay, owner of the White Star Line and was on the RMS Titanic, suffered a long term depression and blamed himself for what happened on the doomed vessel, being quoted as saying he felt he didn't deserve to live.
- William Randolph Hearst (among others) defamed him after the disaster by blaming him for the insufficient number of lifeboats (ignoring the fact that there wasn't a single ocean liner that didn't) and making him out to be a villain out for his own skin who was the first on the lifeboats, doing nothing to help rescue people, when in reality he actually assisted many people into the boats and only left on the very last lifeboat to actually get launched.
- A couple of years ago, a woman came home to find her two teenaged daughters brutally attacked and raped, with the eldest already dead. Years later, after the killer had found religion and wanted to atone for what he did, and was waiting on death row and requested to speak to the mother and surviving sister. When she did, all she could ask was why did she survive when her sister didn't. Turns out that, as well as dealing with the obvious trauma, she was also suffering a massive case of Survivors guilt.
- This is often the case with genocide survivors, and is partly why, save for the case of the Holocaust (Basically the only one that got widespread recognition), you generally don't hear a lot about them from the survivors until fifty years later sometimes, if at all.
- Adam "DJ AM" Goldstein suffered from this after the September 2008 plane crash that killed everyone on board except for himself and Blink One Eighty Two drummer Travis Barker. Sadly, it never got better for him as he died of a drug overdose only eleven months later.
- This painting.◊ You don't need an explanation or a story to go with it. It speaks for itself.
- Waylon Jennings lost a coin flip with Buddy Holly, and was forced to take a bus to Minnesota while Holly took a plane. When Holly joked "I hope your bus freezes!", Jennings joked back "I hope your damn plane crashes!". Tragically, the plane did crash, killing Holly and everyone else aboard on "The Day The Music Died". Jennings was haunted by this for many years.
- Director Roman Polanski had lived without a mother ever since she was gassed by Nazis in 1939, and 30 years later in 1969, the Manson Family senselessly murdered his wife, actress Sharon Tate and her friends. Polanski had blamed himself for her death. But given how many people despise Polanski because of his personal life (he cheated on Sharon many times, and never stopped, and the crime he would commit in 1977), they wish the Manson Family would have killed him instead, and would have been heroes for doing so.
- Ulysses S. Grant felt this since he was originally supposed to go with Abraham Lincoln to the Ford Theater the night he was shot, but bowed out at the last minute. Grant believed that he would have been able to stop John Wilkes Booth had he been there. At the funeral Grant wept profusely, and later stated unequivocally that Lincoln was the greatest man he'd ever known.
- Author Helen Fielding noted that she was on journalism trip when her group decided she shouldn't go into this dangerous territory in the Middle East since she was very young and a woman, her caravan's jeep ended up hitting a landmine and she can still be seen trying not to shake when talking about it.